HONG KONG: A Hong Kong court on Monday found Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung guilty of five counts of money-laundering, completing the former hairdresser’s fall from grace since taking over the club in 2009.
The 54-year-old businessman had denied laundering HK$720 million ($93 million) between 2001 and 2007, and repeatedly tried to halt proceedings over the course of the trial, claiming irregularities.
Judge Douglas Yau criticized Yeung’s “self-contradictory” testimony and said he was “making it up as he went along,” in comments at a district court packed with reporters and members of the public.
“I find that he is someone who is prepared to, and did try to, lie whenever he saw the need to do so,” the judge said.
The tycoon, wearing a dark suit, appeared calm as the verdict was read out. He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Friday, and could face a maximum of seven years in jail.
Yeung was arrested and charged with ill-gotten gains in the southern Chinese city in June 2011, two years after he acquired the “Blues.”
Little-known prior to his emergence in English football, he took control of the club in October 2009 in an 81-million pound ($130 million) takeover.
In February Yeung resigned as chairman and executive director of Birmingham International Holdings Limited (BIHL), which owns the struggling second-tier club, but is still its largest shareholder.
Throughout the trial, Yeung and the prosecution have painted differing pictures of how the businessman’s wealth was amassed.
Yau pointed to HK$347.31 million deposited in just one of Yeung’s accounts between 2001 and 2007, of which HK$27.9 million was done so purely in cash.
The businessman was aware that cash transactions would make the money more difficult to trace, he said.
Amounts subsequently withdrawn from Yeung’s bank accounts mirrored the size of deposits, he said, showing that they were used as a “ repository of funds.”
And Yau said there were reasonable grounds to believe that multiple business dealings with which Yeung was involved had made use of funds which represented “proceeds of an indictable offense.”
The prosecution had claimed during the trial the HK$720 million that passed through the five accounts had come from “unknown parties without any apparent reason.”
The sum, they said, was “more than 300 times the total combined salary” of Yeung and his father.
Yeung’s father’s name was included in two of the charges, though he died in 2012.
Yeung maintained he accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars through stock trading, hairdressing, business ventures in mainland China, and a keen interest in gambling, much of it before the alleged offences took place.